Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh: Ch. 12

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“We, dearest Theobald,” she exclaimed, “will be ever faithful.  We will stand firm and support one another even in the hour of death itself.  God in his mercy may spare us from being burnt alive.  He may or may not do so.  Oh Lord” (and she turned her eyes prayerfully to Heaven), “spare my Theobald, or grant that he may be beheaded.”

“My dearest,” said Theobald gravely, “do not let us agitate ourselves unduly.  If the hour of trial comes we shall be best prepared to meet it by having led a quiet unobtrusive life of self-denial and devotion to God’s glory.  Such a life let us pray God that it may please Him to enable us to pray that we may lead.”

“Dearest Theobald,” exclaimed Christina, drying the tears that had gathered in her eyes, “you are always, always right.  Let us be self-denying, pure, upright, truthful in word and deed.”  She clasped her hands and looked up to Heaven as she spoke.

“Dearest,” rejoined her lover, “we have ever hitherto endeavoured to be all of these things; we have not been worldly people; let us watch and pray that we may so continue to the end.”

The moon had risen and the arbour was getting damp, so they adjourned further aspirations for a more convenient season.  At other times Christina pictured herself and Theobald as braving the scorn of almost every human being in the achievement of some mighty task which should redound to the honour of her Redeemer.  She could face anything for this.  But always towards the end of her vision there came a little coronation scene high up in the golden regions of the Heavens, and a diadem was set upon her head by the Son of Man Himself, amid a host of angels and archangels who looked on with envy and admiration—and here even Theobald himself was out of it.  If there could be such a thing as the Mammon of Righteousness Christina would have assuredly made friends with it.  Her papa and mamma were very estimable people and would in the course of time receive Heavenly Mansions in which they would be exceedingly comfortable; so doubtless would her sisters; so perhaps, even might her brothers; but for herself she felt that a higher destiny was preparing, which it was her duty never to lose sight of.  The first step towards it would be her marriage with Theobald.  In spite, however, of these flights of religious romanticism, Christina was a good-tempered kindly-natured girl enough, who, if she had married a sensible layman—we will say a hotel-keeper—would have developed into a good landlady and been deservedly popular with her guests.

Such was Theobald’s engaged life.  Many a little present passed between the pair, and many a small surprise did they prepare pleasantly for one another.  They never quarrelled, and neither of them ever flirted with anyone else.  Mrs Allaby and his future sisters-in-law idolised Theobald in spite of its being impossible to get another deacon to come and be played for as long as Theobald was able to help Mr Allaby, which now of course he did free gratis and for nothing; two of the sisters, however, did manage to find husbands before Christina was actually married, and on each occasion Theobald played the part of decoy elephant.  In the end only two out of the seven daughters remained single.

After three or four years, old Mr Pontifex became accustomed to his son’s engagement and looked upon it as among the things which had now a prescriptive right to toleration.  In the spring of 1831, more than five years after Theobald had first walked over to Crampsford, one of the best livings in the gift of the College unexpectedly fell vacant, and was for various reasons declined by the two fellows senior to Theobald, who might each have been expected to take it.  The living was then offered to and of course accepted by Theobald, being in value not less than £500 a year with a suitable house and garden.  Old Mr Pontifex then came down more handsomely than was expected and settled £10,000 on his son and daughter-in-law for life with remainder to such of their issue as they might appoint.  In the month of July, 1831 Theobald and Christina became man and wife.